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Mediation - the way forward?

The Bar Council of India vide its letter dated 13.08.2020 issued to the Vice Chancellors of all Universities issuing LL.B. Degrees notified that from the academic session 2020-2021, Mediation & Conciliation shall be a compulsory paper / course component for the pursuit of a LL.B. degree course (3 years and 5 years). The Universities and Centers of Legal Education were directed to incorporate the above subject with the aim to provide not only theoretical knowledge but also train the students in practical skills.

The thought process behind this is really simple, during this global pandemic, the physical hearings in courts have been suspended and social distancing is required to be maintained, therefore mediation and conciliation as a tool for dispute resolution becomes of utmost importance.

Many Litigants (individuals and institutions) have in a span of more than 4 months, realized the importance and benefits of mediation and conciliation as a mechanism to resolve disputes between parties.

In times of Covid-19, when Courts are working at a depleted strength, the Litigants have been drawn towards alternative methods to resolve disputes, whether it is mediation, conciliation or for that matter even Arbitration, where parties can choose to follow a fast, flexible and amicable procedure to resolve disputes.

Even Senior Advocate, Harish Salve in his recent panel discussion while making remarks on the future of legal practice after the COVID-19 pandemic had said that, “No one has the appetite for litigation”, Mr. Salve while making that statement was of the view that the Pandemic has made people to re-valuate whether they should take their disputes to the Court or not.

Today, in almost all contracts, there is dispute resolution clause which prescribes for a stage wise settlement of disputes, where the first stage is generally a meeting between the parties to settle the dispute with an amicable discussion, next being mediation, then conciliation and the last stage being arbitration.

The Introduction of Section 89 in the Code of Civil Procedure was the first big step towards the alternative dispute settlement mechanism in India, today even the Courts promote the same by referring matters to mediation, conciliation and arbitration under this provision.

Introduction of Mediation and Conciliation as a compulsory subject in the curriculum, will help train students in the art of Mediation and Conciliation to understand its true benefits, which will pave way for a much required reform in the Indian Legal System, by reducing the ever-rising burden on Courts and by expediting the process of dispute resolution.

I personally feel that it is a great step towards the betterment of the Indian Legal System, for all the stake holders involved, whether it is the Lawyers who will be well equipped with the art of mediation and conciliation, whether it is the parties to the dispute, who will have a choice for a flexible and speedy resolution of dispute, and whether it is the Courts & Tribunals, which are already overburdened with plethora of cases.

References:

Bar Council of India’s letter dated 13.08.2020

N.C. Jain Advocate & Associates

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